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Saturday, November 13, 2021

Australia the captain of the villians? The Fossil Fueled Five - Comparing Rhetoric with Reality on Fossil Fuel Production at #COP26

Launch of the Fossil Fueled Five Report at Panda Hub at COP26

A new report investigates the role of 5 western developed countries, their current climate plans and their current fossil fuel expansion plans.

The Fossil Fueled Five report comes at a critical time as there is gowing discussion at UN Climate conferences and generally in the community that fossil fuel production needs to be reigned in as demonstrated by the recent Production Gap Report, and the UN Environment Program Emissions Gap Report.

We saw the coal exit pledge gain ground at this UN climate change conference, and the launch of the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance.

This report was produced by the University of Sussex and conducted in cooperation with the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative and key regional partners in each of the 5 countries – Uplift (UK), Oil Change International (USA), Greenpeace (Norway), The Australia Institute (Australia) and (Canada).

Watch the launch (below) which features Canadian environmental activist Tzeporah Berman, Freddie Daley from the University of Sussex, Tessa Khan, Lawyer, Founder & Director, Uplift UK, Colin Rees with Oil Change International, a young FoE Norway activist, and Richie Merzian from the Australia Institute.

Introducing the session Canadian activist Tzeporah Berman said, "For those of us that have been at many COP conferences over the years we know that climate policy and climate agreements are complicated, but what is simple is that 86 percent of the emissions that are trapped in our atmosphere today come from three products: oil, gas and coal."

"There is no pathway to 1.5 degree Celsius without addressing fossil fuel production head on." said Ms Berman.

"I really love the name of this report. It sounds like a team of villians." said Richie Merzian. "We have to beat the Fossil Fuel 5, and I think Australia might be the captain of the villians, because it is unrepentant."

" While the other countries in this Fossil Five report are putting forward more ambitiuos 2030 targets, Australia is refusing to do so. Because it would know that it couldn't open as many fossil fuel projects as it wanted to if it did so. Currently there are 100 new fossil fuel projects in the pipeline: over 70 coal mines, 30 gas projects. If they were all openned up to their full utility that is about 1.7 billion tonnes of Greenhouse gas emissions, thats three times Australia's annual emissions, about 200 coal fired power stations."

"So Australia wants to sell as much fossil fuels as possible. That is where we are starting from."

The report  analysed recent government announcements and the latest data on fossil fuel production found that:

  • There is an alarming gap between what the Fossil Fuelled 5 are pledging to do to reduce their domestic emissions and their plans to expand fossil fuel production, undermining efforts to curtail global emissions and ignoring their responsibility to phase out fossil fuels, rapidly and justly. 
  • Coal, oil and gas production must fall globally by 69%, 31% and 28% respectively between now and 2030 to keep the 1.5ÂșC target alive. However, the projections suggest that the Fossil Fuelled 5 will reduce coal production by only 30%, and actually increase oil and gas production by 33% and 27%, respectively. As wealthy nations, the Fossil Fuelled 5 should be leading this transition away from fossil fuels. 
  • Despite their net zero targets and climate pledges these five nations alone have provided over $150 billion in public support for the fossil fuel production and consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic. This level of support to fossil fuel production is more than the entire G7 put towards clean energy as part of the pandemic recovery ($147 billion).
The report shows that several of the world’s wealthiest nations “are doubling down on fossil fuel production” which will “have disastrous impacts for all life on our planet, but especially those communities in the Global South who have done the least to create this crisis and have the fewest resources to adapt to its impacts.” 

Lead author Freddie Daley, Research Associate at the University of Sussex, said in a statement: 

“There’s an alarming gap between what wealthy nations are saying and what they are doing. You would expect these five nations to provide the leadership needed to move the global economy away from fossil fuels and reduce emissions to zero. However, they seem to be quite content to make pledges and promises with one hand, while expanding and subsidising fossil fuel production to the tune of billions on the other. 

“Not only are these wealthy nations jeopardising their own futures and the futures of their citizens through this continued expansion, but they are condemning communities in the global south to a state of perpetual crisis which they did nothing to create. If these nations want to be climate pioneers, it is time they addressed the elephant in the room: fossil fuels.”

 Tzeporah Berman, Chair of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty said: 

“Canada claims to be a climate leader yet its emissions have continued to rise since signing the Paris Agreement. This is not surprising given the unwillingness of political leaders to address the largest source of emissions - oil and gas. While important steps have been taken such as putting a price on carbon nationally, the Canadian government subsidizes the sector more than any other G20 nation. The Fossil Fuelled 5 report highlights why Canada is standing in the way of binding agreements for a wind down of oil, gas and coal at COP26."

Tessa Khan, Founder of Uplift UK said:
“The UK government has invested a lot in trying to persuade people that it is taking action to tackle the climate crisis, but while it is still opening up new oil and gas fields we can discount most of it as hot air. We know that there can’t be any fossil fuel developments if we want a liveable climate and yet the UK government wants to open 30 new oil and gas fields in the North Sea, starting with Cambo. And all the while subsiding fossil fuel companies to the tune of billions. Actions matter now not words. Just stop talking, Prime Minister and instead, stop Cambo.”
Collin Rees, U.S. Program Manager, Oil Change International, said: 

"The United States is the poster child for climate hypocrisy — the world's largest historical emitter claiming the mantle of climate leadership while pouring fuel on the fire of the climate crisis. Joe Biden's words will ring hollow until he cancels deadly fossil fuel expansion projects like the Dakota Access Pipeline or the dozens of proposed oil and gas export terminals awaiting approval from his administration. This new report makes it clear the U.S. remains a massive driver of oil and gas expansion, and that won't change until our leaders commit to a managed phase-out of fossil fuel extraction that truly protects communities, workers, and the climate."
Frode Pleym, Executive Director of Greenpeace Norway, said:
"The use of fossil fuels is the number one reason we are currently facing a climate emergency. Yet, the wealthiest countries with the greatest capacity to rapidly transition away from fossil fuels, keep allowing and even subsidising the development of new oil, gas and coal. It’s time for the leaders of countries such as Norway to come together and lead the way out of climate chaos once and for all." 
Richie Merizan, Climate & Energy Program Director at Independent Think-Tank, the  Australia Institute, said:
“Not only is the Morrison Government unrepentant about Australia’s fossil fuels production and export plans through to 2050 and beyond, it is openly boasting about these plans here at Glasgow. PM Morrison’s Net Zero target does nothing to stop fossil fuel expansion, and goes so far as to explicitly build their continued use into its plan to reduce emissions. While the world moves forward in phasing out fossil fuels – a key aim of this COP, the Morrison Government is intent on driving Australia backwards. Australia is a wealthy country and is in the box seat to be leading the renewable energy transition."

Country-specific analysis from the Report:

United States: The US has pledged to halve emissions by 2030 yet have simultaneously provided $20 billion in annual support to the fossil fuel industry. 

United Kingdom: Despite hosting COP26, the UK is expected to green light the Cambo oil field, which contains approximately 255 million barrels of oil.

Canada is looking to increase their price on carbon but also provided approximately $17 billion in public finance to three fossil fuel pipelines between 2018 and 2020.

Norway has raised their ambition to decrease emissions but has already granted 60+ new licenses for fossil fuel production and access to 84 new exploration zones in 2021 alone.

Australia: Despite their recent commitment to net zero by 2050, Australia has over 100 fossil fuel projects currently in the approval pipeline. 

Report Recommendations

The United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Norway and Australia with their wealth, historical responsibility and limited dependence on fossil fuel production should be the first to ramp up ambition and take a leading role in winding down fossil fuel production says the report. 

These wealthy nations can end the era of fossil fuels by:
  • Halting the licensing for further exploration and extraction of fossil fuels.
  • Committing to a timeline for domestic phase-out of fossil fuels in line with 1.5°C, noting that wealthy countries can and should move first and should therefore exceed the average rates identified in the Production Gap Report of phasing out coal, oil and gas on average by 11%, 4% and 3% each year.
  • Ending the support for fossil fuel production through subsidies, tax relief and other mechanisms of government support.
  • Joining the Beyond Oil & Gas Alliance (BOGA) to work with other ambitious governments to end fossil fuel production and fund a just transition for workers.
  • Acting as first movers as part of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.
  • Redirecting the vast financial support currently provided to fossil fuel industries towards helping developing countries shift away from a reliance on fossil fuel production and consumption. If we are to prevent the worst impacts of the climate crisis from becoming a reality, we must address the root of our collective problem: fossil fuels.

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